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Yock, Daniel Alfred (1975–1993)

by Brian F. Stevenson

This entry is from the Australian Dictionary of Biography

Daniel Alfred Yock (1975–1993), dancer, was born on 7 February 1975 at Cherbourg Aboriginal Settlement, son of Tottie Yock, formerly Fogarty. The poet Lionel Fogarty, Daniel’s brother, said later of the siblings: ‘Our roots, the familiarisation of our land in the spiritual sense, comes down to here [Brisbane] and the Beaudesert area’ (Fogarty 1995, 122). After attending Cherbourg State and Murgon High Schools, Daniel left for Brisbane in 1991 because of the poor employment outlook locally, but returned, only to depart again for Brisbane later in the year. There he was effectively homeless, though he would often find a bed at a hostel. He and his friends formed the Wakka dance troupe, performing occasionally at schools and festivals; his earnings, though, were meagre and irregular.

On 7 November 1993 Yock and a group of companions in Musgrave Park, South Brisbane, came to the attention of two police officers in a patrol car. Assessing their behaviour as disorderly and calling for assistance, the police followed them for a short distance to the corner of Boundary and Brereton Streets, West End, then moved to arrest them. Police later alleged that Yock pulled a stake from the ground and waved it threateningly towards them. He tried to run, but an officer from a second police car secured him. The young man lost consciousness, dying shortly afterwards.

A protest outside police headquarters the next day erupted into a brawl in which about twelve Aboriginal people and six police officers were injured. Between five hundred and a thousand people, including two State government ministers, attended Yock’s funeral at Cherbourg; following a service combining Anglican and traditional Aboriginal rites, he was buried in the town’s cemetery. On 17 November street marches protesting about his death were held throughout Queensland.

Investigating the incident, Queensland’s Criminal Justice Commission conceded that it was ‘more probable than not that Yock did not have a free stake in his hand’ (Queensland 1994, 74). Nevertheless, it found that there was enough evidence to show that he and his companions were behaving in a disorderly manner, so his arrest was lawful. Yock’s companions testified that he was kicked and one resident of Brereton Street asserted that he was punched, though he conceded this might have been ‘an assumption’ (Queensland 1994, xvi) on his part. At the autopsy, Dr D. J. Williams, a government pathologist, had certified that the cause of death was ischaemic heart disease and narrowing of the arteries, not a conventional heart attack. Significant impairment of the right coronary artery existed. Yock’s body tested positive for cannabis and his blood alcohol content was high. It was reported that he had suffered several fainting attacks since 1990 (one, during a boxing match, recorded on video). A cardiologist, Dr G. H. Neilson, suggested a Stokes-Adams condition, in which a temporary arrest of the heart occurs, as a possible cause. The police minister, Paul Braddy, said that the report (released on 5 April 1994) showed there was ‘not a scintilla of evidence to back up a claim of police assault or brutality’ (Courier-Mail 1994, 1).

The Socialist Labour League organised a ‘Workers Inquiry’ into Yock’s death. The investigation found that Yock had died from a lack of oxygen after being left face down, unconscious, and unable to breathe. A medical practitioner, Dr Holman Koops, testified that it was ‘highly improbable’ (Truth About the Killing of Daniel Yock 1994, 99) that Yock died from a Stokes-Adams attack, noting that his fainting incidents had occurred during stressful situations. Concluding that Yock was unconscious because of police treatment, the inquiry argued that all six police officers involved in his arrest were directly responsible for his death. The authorities did not act on the report.

An uncle, Warry John Stanley, described Yock as ‘a jovial sort of guy’ who ‘loved to break down the barriers between the black and white’ (Queensland 1994, 12). Lionel Fogarty recalled his efforts as a youngster to write poetry and songs and to learn and maintain the traditional dances of his people, seeing him as ‘a Song Man [who] used to make songs up from his own dreaming,’ a ‘very culturally talented guy, very dedicated to his culture’ (Fogarty 1995, 125). With Mulrunji (Cameron Doomadgee) (d. 2004), Yock became one of the best known of the Aboriginal people to have died in custody in Queensland. His short life and tragic death were commemorated by a songwriter, Kev Carmody, and by at least two poets, Fogarty and Kaylah Kayemtee Tyson.

Select Bibliography

  • Berghofer, Greg. ‘Aboriginal Community Farewells Daniel.’ South Burnett Times (Kingaroy, Qld), 19 November 1993, 3

  • Courier-Mail (Brisbane). ‘Police Demand Apology.’ 6 April 1994, 1

  • Fogarty, Lionel. ‘Musgrave Park: Lionel Fogarty Talks to Philip Mead.’ RePublica (Sydney), no. 3 (1995): 119–31

  • Queensland. A Report of an Investigation into the Arrest and Death of Daniel Alfred Yock. Brisbane: Criminal Justice Commission, 1994

  • The Truth About the Killing of Daniel Yock: Workers Inquiry Exposes Police Murder. Marrickville, NSW: Labour Press Books, 1994

Citation details

Brian F. Stevenson, 'Yock, Daniel Alfred (1975–1993)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://ia.anu.edu.au/biography/yock-daniel-alfred-18056/text29633, accessed 30 May 2017.

© Copyright Australian Dictionary of Biography, 2012